It’s Been a While..

I realized that I have been a little recluse in my postings in the last few weeks. Reflecting on it I have just been feeling a little hypocritical from professing my anti-medication stance for the treatment of anxiety. I still feel that my decision was correct, but my anxiety therapy never treated the whole story. Anxiety can easily explain some of my symptoms, and physical manifestations of the disorder. However, I always felt like there was so much more to the story than I had realized. Sure I was nervous, had upset stomachs, would get shaky when nervous, would lash out in anger, and generally avoided certain situations. Here is where we get into what I mean by “more”.

On top of anxiety, I also had serious bouts of depression. I would get into these ruts where it felt like my life did not have any meaning. My brain constantly told myself terrible messages, as a way to punish me for being happy about anything. I lived in a state of fear for days at a time where I thought everyone was always mad at me, and I was a disappointment to those around me. These symptoms would last for days, and I got really great at hiding them. I convinced myself that if I needed to cry I would do it when I was alone. I let others see when I was in distressed, but not nearly to the extent that I was actually feeling bad.

I also had moments where I was in a state of feeling wonderful. Absolutely nothing to get me down, and I had so many ideas and goals that I was going to accomplish. I would start elaborate projects with plans to make my life perfect. At one point I started writing a book, I was coaching for Beachbody, I started grad school, I’ve changed jobs so many times over the years on a whim, and all due to this feeling of having zero consequences. I have also been an avid spender. I will go on these shopping sprees where I can spend hundreds or thousands of dollars and not feel an ounce of guilt (until my sad spell hits). I bought things I didn’t really need, but inside my brain, I told myself I really needed them.

My life for the last 17(ish) years has bounced between one of these two moods. There were very few moments where I felt like I was at my perceived level of normal. I would go days wanting to do nothing but sleep, then 4-5 days later I didn’t need sleep anymore and could stay up all night. It’s a dangerous cycle that kept my brain exhausted in this flipping mode. It was also hard for people around me to deal with because I heard so many times “why can’t you just be happy”, “stop being so angry”, “just stop spending money”. I would get increasingly frustrated with people around me simply because I know. I know my actions were sometimes wrong, and I could never articulate what it was inside me that prevented me from making better decisions.

I feel like I owe everyone in my life an apology, but some of my actions I was not fully in control of. I am known for saying sorry, even when I don’t mean it if it avoids conflict that I don’t want. Since starting my medication, I still cry a lot. I had a moment on Tuesday where I felt like there was no hope for me again. Kevin was leaving the next day for a 2 week trip in Europe with his family, and I knew I was going to miss him terribly. I have been dreading this trip ever since I learned it existed. I am aware that 2 weeks is not that long for someone to be gone, but it does not take away the fact that I feel so sad without him around. I became angry at myself for wasting our last night together being sad and crying over it. The messages in my head got so negative, I did want to hurt myself. The best decision I made that night was to tell Kevin exactly what was going on in my head and hopped into the shower to relax.

The hardest thing anyone can do in their life is to admit that something is wrong. I spent way too many years in denial that I could be helped or that anything was wrong. I now have a great support system between my family and Kevin that I feel I am in a good place to be cared for. There are moments when I cannot carry my own weight and need to lean on my loved ones to get through it. The most important conversation that Kevin and I had was that none of this is his responsibility to fix. It’s natural when you love someone to want to fix things that are hurting them, but this is something that I need to heal on my own. All he can really do is to be by my side and listen to me talk. Right now that’s all I need is reminders that everything is going to be ok.

Conflicting Reflections

As I previously stated in my last post, I was recently diagnosed with Bipolar II disorder. Since Monday I have been on a cycle of intense crying and sadness, mixed with feelings of confidence. I realized during my reflections that I have had this disorder for a very long time. This may even go back to my adolescent years.

See, when someone has bipolar disorder they experience moods of “highs” and “lows”, but to the extreme. I read an article that discussed what the symptoms of both were and I was astounded by what I was reading. In the moods of being manic or hypomanic (the “high”) someone can be irritable for no reason, seek risky behaviors (over spending, sexual activities), overconfident, and feeling like they need to talk for no reason. During a mania the brain cannot understand that these behaviors are inappropriate. Over the years I have seen many of these symptoms in myself, but always thought they were related to anxiety, and while I was worried, I made decisions that were harmful but never felt bad about them.

The other feeling is depression (the “lows”). During a depressive episode someone who is bipolar is often misdiagnosed as just having depression. During the depressive moods you feel extremely sad, loose interest in activities that you used to love, have thoughts of self-harm or feeling like you shouldn’t exist in this world any longer, and feel like you are worthless to everyone else around you. There are other symptoms like loss of sleep by feeling you do not need to sleep or undereating that causes your body to be unhealthy.

Since starting my medication on Monday I have begun to have more moments of feeling level. And by level I mean not manically crying and not being happy, but in a more neutral state. I have had trouble eating this week (only consuming about 500 calories a day), so that is been my main focus to try to find food that sounds good to me. This task is difficult, because I find myself in a constant state of nausea, and lack the motivation to push myself further. I’m not sure how this medication is supposed to make me feel, but if it allows me to control more of where my moods end up, then this will be a win.

I also saw a new primary care physician yesterday. She was the sweetest human being on the planet, and when she saw me crying in the exam room she immediately gave me a hug and told me I was too beautiful to be upset. She offered words of encouragement that the plan of treatment I have developed is a good idea. The main reason I had behind having a primary care physician on my care team was so that I have a medical professional aware of any complications or issues beyond my mental health. Having a balance of care is extremely important, especially when dealing with medications that change your brain chemistry.

I have felt like a hypocrite this week, because I started taking medication. In previous blogs I was adamant that I was able to control all of my anxiety issues solely through talk therapy. The truth is sometimes our brains are unbalanced chemically beyond our control. Mental health is thought of as a separate area of healthcare, but it is no different from someone treating diabetes or heart disease. I had to accept this week that I am allowed to grieve, because this is like any other major disease diagnosis. There will never be a time in my life where I will not be bipolar. This disorder will be a part of me the rest of my life, but I have good faith that I can manage my symptoms.

I am terrified of the stigmas that surround mental health disorders and having people think I am crazy or not worth giving a chance to love. I know historically I have been labeled a “crazy girlfriend” or “clingy”, but I know now that it was not my fault. I was unable to control my emotions and moods, but I vow to get better and live my life just like everyone else. I do not want my emotions to go away; I just hope there will be a time where I am in more control. I am doing this work for ME and not for anyone else, because the people in your life that are worth having around will stay by your side.

 

Clarity and Confusion

Mental health has always been something that I am passionate about. I have used my experiences to try to eliminate stigmas that are associated with different disorders. I knew when I was young that I was different from everyone else. I was self-aware that the way I processed emotions and feelings was different from the “average” person. I have had moments in my life where I felt bad for being different, because of the messages I received. I have always hidden away parts of myself, because I didn’t want anyone to worry about me.

In March I made a decision to end a relationship that I was no longer happy in. My decision seemed drastic to some, but I knew that it was for the best. I could’ve gone about the decision differently and changed the method in which I ended things, but I do not regret it. In March I also made the best decision of my life, to follow my heart. I had been mentally separated from my previous relationship for about 6 months prior to meeting this new person, so I knew my heart and soul were ready to love again. However, mentally I am not in a place where I can properly support someone else, and as a result I lost them.

Today I was diagnosed with bipolar II disorder. In my previous treatments with mental health I was treated primarily for anxiety and depressive episodes. Right out of high school I was put on antidepressants, which I never felt helped my symptoms. When I discussed this, among many other things, with my psychiatrist, she explained that antidepressants can actually make bipolar II disorder worse, which is why I never felt relief with that medication.

Bipolar is something so new to me, and I am not entirely sure what it entails. I have a treatment plan, I started some medication, and I am following up with talk therapy next week to start that part of my treatment. Bipolar was explained to me as a mental disorder where you experience drastic moods of lows and highs. I have days where I do not want to be on this planet anymore, and I physically hurt inside from emotions. Then two days later I feel like I can take on the world, and I am making impulsive decisions just to feel pleasure. I always thought of these things as two separate disorders, anxiety and depression. What I didn’t realize is that they are connected, and some of my other symptoms are also related.

I know this is a time in my life where I need to be thinking about myself. I need to get better for me. Not for the benefit of anyone else in my life, but because I DESERVE to be the happiest and best version of myself. I have made so many decisions lately that have impacted my life for the better and for the worse. But as my dad told me today, we always make decisions and sometimes we have to live with the consequences of those decisions, but that’s life.

I also need to come to terms that some of the things that I have done over the last few years have not been entirely my fault. I did them, sure, but I didn’t always understand why I was doing it. I just want everyone to know that I am working on it. I’m going to still have days where I am sadder than other days, but as a rule I want to focus on being me. I want to find out who I am and what makes me happy. I am ready to move forward from here and to continue to grow and understand what all of this means.